A more benevolent people, I have never known … Their kindness and accommodation to strangers is unparalleled … Their eminence too in science … the politeness of the general manners, the ease and vivacity of their conversation, give a charm to their society to be found nowhere else … ask the travelled inhabitant of any nation, In what country on earth would you rather live? — Certainly in my own, where are all my friends, my relations, and the earliest & sweetest affections and recollections of my life. Which would be your second choice? France.
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders esteem kind, friendly, helpful people.
In 1789, after five years in France, Jefferson made plans to return home. His thought was to enroll his daughters in school and return for a time. President Washington had other ideas, and Jefferson remained in America as his Secretary of State.
Jefferson’s fondness for France and its people was probably magnified by two things not mentioned here:
1. France’s aid in America’s revolutionary war, with money and men, both essential to its success
2. A movement toward the republican rights of man that began during his time there. He thought America’s independence and the coming French abolition of the monarchy would fan the flames of republican government throughout the world.
He was wrong about the course France would take, and the effect it would have. Yet, 30 years later as he wrote this account, he still harbored the fondest thoughts toward his second home. Nor did he waver in his belief that ultimately, the freedom America had achieved and that France hoped for would be models for the world.